You don’t have to feel “pregnant and screwed”  

Just over a year ago, at the height of the pandemic, I signed up to become a volunteer for the amazing organisation that is Pregnant then Screwed.  I had followed their progress over the last few years and really felt as though the messages they were getting out there and the work that they were doing, for women, in particular, was aligned with my own experiences as women in the workplace, in particular, a pregnant woman in the workplace and I signed up to volunteer when they were looking for supporters back in 2020.

So, who are PTS? Well, they are the leading charity working with organisations to end the motherhood penalty.  They campaign on issues that impact pregnant women and working mothers whilst offering free advice and driving forward meaningful change. The organisation was set up in March 2015 by Joeli Brearley and was designed to be a space for mothers to share their stories of discrimination.  It grew and grew, and it is today used by thousands of women to support their journeys into parenthood and beyond.

There is a range of ways in which the organisation works, but here I wanted to talk about their Employee Helpline. Staffed completely by volunteers, like myself, that take calls on any employment matters that affect women in the workplace. I have a shift each week, whereby I take calls directly from women who are in need to support, advice, guidance and more often than not, emotional support for what’s happening right now.  We are all HR practitioners either in work or self-employed that can help these women and their partners to navigate becoming or being a parent in the workplace- something which I am extremely passionate about, based largely on my own experiences and those of others around me.

Mostly women, which contact the helpline, can require support or guidance in a whole range of areas, from flexible working, redundancy, discrimination and treatment, contracts, policies or a mixture of many things.  What I’ve noticed during my time, is how much these women just need to talk this over with someone and a lot of the time, they know what to do and they know what’s happening is wrong, but they need someone else to listen, to hear them and to say, ‘you’re right and that’s enough.  Every week I feel humbled by the support that the helpline provides and the work that pregnant then screwed do, to support women and their families.

Back in September, I was asked if I would like to support the Mentoring programme as well or instead of and I initially chose to support the Mentor programme, but within weeks I missed being able to help that I chose both.  I have a set of mentees that are going through the tribunal process and are in need of emotional support and guidance.  They may have a solicitor representing themselves or they may not, they may be doing this alone and self-representing. It’s the most courageous thing that someone can do in these circumstances.  We seek to offer clarity about the tribunal process and all of its winding routes, from the very first submission of an ET1 claim to the Tribunal itself.  We support these women as best we can, for free, to ensure they get the support that is so often needed. For me, tribunals are right there with divorce and moving home for the most stressful things that you can put yourself through and most often not by many choices.  The women I support are so brave and even when they are at their most frustrated or feeling broken by the process, they rise up and very often not just for themselves but for their colleagues, the future employees and for their children that they want to make sure this never happens to, and I totally get it. I’ve been there and it can be really hard.

Over the last year or so, I have also been incredibly impressed and amazing by the volunteers that run the helpline, which give their time, unpaid, every single week and sometimes more hours and more support.  It’s more than just working on the helpline; we are like a big family that lean on each other for support. We recognise that some calls are hard, sometimes it can really hit home when someone talks about their situation, and we can see it in ourselves or our own past experiences. We seek guidance from the rest of the group, we seek clarity, we check if there is more than we can do or say to support these women.  We congratulate each other when there are new jobs, babies and support each other in family situations or when we just need to share.  I know that these 70 odd women have my back. It’s an immense feeling of a tribe and I cannot imagine a time when I don’t have PTS in my life anymore.

PTS is an awesome organisation with at its very core, its leader, Joeli leading the way forward and bringing her tribe along with her on her mission to rid the bias, to make employers stand up and for women to be able to stand tall against the treatment they so often receive. I feel privileged to support them and there are great things ahead for them in 2022 I’m sure.

If you would like to be involved then you can find out more at www.pregnantthenscrewed.com and if you need some support right now then call 0161 222 9879 to their employment helpline.

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